The first listen to Shebang already had me daydreaming the words in my mind – album of the year. Whilst it is clearly months premature, and for now totally speculative, the idea of this lowercase OBLADADA accolade flashed through my brain repeated as this sonic journey rippled and morphed on an initial fly through…
Given the fact that Shebang arrived here in promo form in July, it was possibly somehow recklessly to suggest 2022 had already peaked. But time and time again, even now, the startling precision and sheer variety of sounds suggests Oren Ambarchi’s Shebang is somehow eclipsing previous work that already set the bar staggeringly high.
Several times in the countless listens, a wave of almost teary-eyed joy floods our brain as Shebang IV gathers into a sublime peak. That jangling Day of Radiance styled Laraaji groove mandala-ing into a swarm of pedal steel and swooping electronics. Full blast isn’t loud enough, as edges reveal themelves like infinite horizons as you head for inky black space. Eventually a wake of abstracted electronic shadows wafts around before a weird and somehow clunky fourth wall fade out.
Whilst this all may seem like a spoiler, the whole thing is a joyous journey to this dazzling high point. A majestically repeatable experience. Excerpts or tracks in isolation are pointless. A tight 35 minutes starting in the vectored outlines of Shebang I, reminiscent of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint, then interlinking, folding, reflecting and expanding over 4 parts transporting you through increasingly denser fluid versions of itself. The pedal steel contracts and expands like huge elastic bands in Shebang II. Rolling jazzy piano sweeps in as Shebang III opens up, the whole thing poised between forward momentum and absolute beauty, just rolls and rolls…
It’s clear that Shebang is a further mind popping variation on the template of previous albums like Quixotism and Hubris. Another album gathering around a rhythmic spine that meshes disparate instrumental contributions from a rolling boil of players.
Again, the clunky details reveal a grouping of Chris Abrahams – piano on III & IV, Johan Berthling – acoustic bass on III, BJ Cole – pedal steel on II & IV, Sam Dunscombe – bass clarinet on I & II, Jim O’Rourke – synths on III & IV, Julia Reidy – 12-string guitar on III & IV, Joe Talia – drums on the whole Shebang with Ambarchi as the glue and architect on guitar and what not. Any sense of these players as individuals confirms beyond doubt that here, we are in the realm of truly, irony free – supergroup.
Shebang is also another reminder Ambarchi began his musically journey as a drummer, and so it’s easy to assume rhythm as perhaps one of his oldest and most fundamental fascination.
As a listening experience, a huge amount of ground that touches on elements of improvisation, minimalism, rock, jazz, prog and dusted with electronics but somehow never quite allowing itself to sit fully anywhere. For us, that’s the only microscopic niggle with the entire project is that Shebang doesn’t stretch out longer but the fact it does so much, so efficiently, is also part of its magic.
Ultimately, wherever Shebang appears in any end of the year list is meaningless, everything here points toward this latest album continuing to be an absolute treat for a very long time to come.
Shebang is out on September 30 on vinyl, cassette, CD and digitally on Drag City, preorder here